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Baptism services are held at either of our two historic churches, All Saints, Hartley, and St. Mary’s, Fawkham, at 12.30 p.m. on Sundays.

The service itself is full of significance and symbolism. You will also find a good explanation of the symbolism of water on pages 6 & 7, of the booklet “Your Baby’s Baptism in the Church of England.”

At the end of these notes you will find the full version of the service. I encourage you to read this so that you can become familiar with it. There is a helpful commentary on it on pages 10-13 of the booklet “Your Baby’s Baptism in the Church of England.”

During the course of the baptism service there will be two occasions when I will ask you questions. I want to highlight these now so that you will have had the chance to think about them and prepare yourselves for them.

Joining the Church Family
The first occasion comes after the Bible reading and sermon. I will ask you and the godparents whether you are prepared to bring your child up as a member of the Church Family (we looked at this on p. 5 - Belonging to the Church Family.)

These are the words in the service which I will use:

“ Parents and godparents, the Church receives these children with joy. Today we are trusting God for their growth in faith. Will you pray for them, draw them by your example into the community of faith and walk with them in the way of Christ?”

And then I will ask, “Will you care for them and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?”

I have highlighted in bold type the key phrases in these two questions. They demonstrate that both the Church Family and your family have responsibilities to fulfil. As a Church Family we undertake that we will receive your child with joy. We will do all that we can to make you and your child feel welcome, and to help you grow in an awareness of God and his loving purposes for you through worship, teaching and fellowship. For your part, you will be promising to draw your child by your example “into the community of faith” and to “help them take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church.”

A number of people say to me, “I believe, but I’m not religious,” meaning that they’ve never thought that church was for them. However, we hope that you’ll soon discover the warm welcome awaiting you and that you will want to join in with the different activities for you and your child.

Sometimes parents will say to me, “I want my children to be baptised, but they can make up their own mind later on,” implying that they don’t wish to do anything further to nurture their children’s faith. But this undermines all the good that flows from baptism. A baby will be born with your features and will pick up your mannerisms. In the same way, as your child grows up, he or she will also grow up with your faith. He or she will soon see what is important in your life. That is why the first question specifically asks if you will draw your child into the life of the church by your example. Through baptism and being part of the Church Family you have the wonderful opportunity to share with your child so much that is good and enriching in life. You will be building a firm foundation for their lives which will keep them in good stead for years to come. Later on they are bound to face issues to do with relationships or drugs or lifestyle - having a strong Christian background will help them to cope with these pressures as they come.

Others will say to me, “You can be a Christian without going to Church.” This may be true on one level, but its rather like saying you can be a footballer without belonging to a team. Yes, you can kick a football around on your own in your back garden, but you will never fully develop your skills in the way that you would with regular team training sessions, and you would miss out on all the fun and excitement of playing matches as part of a team.

I know that meeting with other members of the Church Family on a Sunday morning is not always easy - when our children are younger we have their sleeping and feeding patterns to contend with, and when our children are older they have party invitations or sports commitments. And then there are other family occasions which are often held at weekends.

But as a beginning I would warmly encourage you to come along to our monthly Family Service which is held on the third Sunday of each month at 10.30 a.m. in the Church Centre on the Ash Road. I hope this will soon become part of your family routine.

You don’t need to worry about your child making a noise. You will find many other families with young children as well. Please see p 13 for further information about young children and church.

Deciding to follow Jesus and his teaching
The second occasion when I ask you questions comes in the section entitled, “The Decision”. In this section I will ask you and the godparents two sets of three questions. The first set of three questions is about turning our backs on all that is evil in our world; and the second set of three questions is about aligning our lives with God’s love and purposes for us.

These two sets of three questions are very ancient, going right back to the earliest times when the first Christians joined the Church and were baptised two thousand years ago.

An analogy I find helpful in understanding the spiritual dynamics behind these questions is to think of our life as a journey, and this point in the service invites us to make sure we are travelling in the right direction. It is as if we are travelling across London on the Underground. We are short on time and we are hoping for smooth connections. After walking through various tunnels and corridors we come to a short flight of steps leading down to a platform on either side. Just as we get to the bottom of the steps a train arrives and we think, “Great; just what we need; now we won’t have to wait on the platform for a long time and we’ll be able to make our connections.” We jump on the train and sit back in the seat, breathing a sigh of relief. When we come to the next station we look out of the window, but we get a surprise. “Just a minute,” we think to ourselves, “that’s the wrong station!”







Then we realise that we jumped on a train going in the opposite direction from where we wanted to go. At that point we have to do two things, simple but crucial. The first thing we have to do is get off the train which is going in the wrong direction. The second thing we have to do is get on a train going in the right direction.

This, in effect, is what is happening as we respond to these two sets of three questions. In the first set of questions we acknowledge that unless our lives are open to God and to his will, then we are travelling in the wrong direction. In the second set of questions we determine to live our lives in the right direction, following the teachings of Jesus. As we continue to follow Jesus throughout our lives we will finally reach the right destination, the heavenly call of God where we will be gathered in the fullness of his presence with all the saints.

These questions are set out on pages 10 and 11 of the booklet “Your baby’s baptism in the Church of England.”

Affirming our Faith
There is one other part of the service where I will ask you to join with me in saying words that carry great significance and meaning. I will be baptising your child “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and just before I do so, I will invite you to affirm your faith in God the Holy Trinity. We will use the words of the Apostles’ Creed which have been used in the baptism service from the earliest of times.

The Apostles’ Creed is a succinct statement of what we believe as Christians. To help prepare you to say it with understanding, you will be looking at it in greater detail in one of the baptism preparation sessions.

It may be that this is the first time for years that you have stopped to think about your faith in greater depth. Preparing for baptism is a wonderful opportunity for you to grow in your own faith. Clearly, a couple of sessions on Saturday mornings will only scratch the surface. If you would like to follow this up at a greater depth, we run a confirmation course each year. In this course we look in greater detail at Christian belief and lifestyle.

There is always more to learn about our faith, and new things to discover in our relationship with God. I know I’m learning all the time! I also hope that you will find our Sunday services are a time when you can continue to grow in faith through hearing the Bible readings and the teaching that follows.

The baptism service is rich in symbolic imagery. In these notes I want to highlight three symbolic features.

1. Baptismal oil
After you have made the decision to reject all that is evil and to follow Jesus, I will make the sign of the cross on your child’s forehead. To do this I will use special baptismal oil.

This is olive oil which has been blessed by the Bishop in the Cathedral at a special service, and is then taken by the clergy to all the parishes in the Diocese. The symbolism is that of getting ready for the race of faith.
In ancient days, when athletes were training for an event, if they found their limbs were aching or stiff after a hard training session, they would use olive oil and massage it into their body. In this way they would be limbered up and ready for the race. So also, in the baptism service we will be praying that your child will be ready for the race of faith that s/he is about to begin. And in the same way that you can tell what team or country an athlete is representing by the number or national emblem on their running vest, so also you can tell what team your child belongs to by the sign of the cross on his/her forehead. In spiritual terms this shows that s/he is part of the Lord’s team. In the baptism service we will be pledging our support and encouragement for your child as s/he sets off on this race. You and the godparents will play the role of coach and training team for your child!

2. Water
The symbolic use of water is described in detail on pages 6 & 7 of the booklet “Your baby’s baptism in the Church of England.” It carries at least three levels of meaning.

i) We use water for washing, and so in baptism we are given the opportunity to have a fresh start with God. (It is for the same reason that the traditional colour for a baptismal gown is white.) Any hurts, resentments or bitterness are symbolically washed away and we begin with a clean slate.

ii) We also know that water can drown someone, so the water of baptism symbolises dying to the old way of life, and escaping from the hold of all that might separate us from God. There is a link with Jesus’ death on the cross which broke the power of evil and then resurrection through which we all have new life in friendship and union with God.

iii) The third level is that of the life-giving properties of water. We need water to survive and thrive. The symbolism here is of the life-giving spirit flowing into our lives to sustain our new relationship with God.

At the end of the service I will give your child his or her baptismal candle. I will light this from the large Easter candle standing next to the font. This candle is lit for the first time at Easter each year, and it symbolises the light and life that flows from the resurrection of Jesus which we celebrate at Easter. This light and life is then symbolically passed on to your child. The baptism concludes with the words, “Go in the light and peace of Christ,” with the response, “Thanks be to God.”

It is a good idea to light your child’s baptism candle on the anniversary of his or her baptism each year and remind yourself of the vows that you have taken.


† First Thoughts About Baptism
† Initial Home Visit
† Act of Blessing and Thanksgiving
† Belonging to the Church Family
† Baptism Preparation Classes
† Godparents
† The Baptism Service
† Receiving the Baptism Certificate
† Communion Services
† Young Children and Church
† Nurturing Your Child's Faith at    Home
† Other questions

To contact us:
Phone: 01474 703819
Fax: 01474 704972
The Rectory
3 St John's Lane
Kent DA3 8ET

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